In addition to the work of adopting policies and budgets for Snohomish County, we as Councilmembers are involved in advocacy to our legislators at the state and federal level. As representatives closest to the people, we bring the concerns of our communities to our state and federal partners. In this month’s column, I will highlight some of this work with at the state and federal level.
The 2020 legislative session ended on March 12th. One of the major actions the legislature took this year was the response to the COVID-19 health emergency. Over the course of the session, legislators approved $200 million to support state and local health agencies in responding to the outbreak. This money will help public health agencies and medical centers test for and respond to positive COVID-19 cases. Part of the money will also help fund increased unemployment claims caused by missed work due to the outbreak. We have seen great coordination between our local, state, and federal partners in this response and I thank the many agencies and organizations which have been part of this effort. I am also very appreciative of our community members who have stepped up to support one another during this difficult time.
Another priority for Snohomish County during the recent session was the cost of elections. The County Auditor in each county is responsible for administering elections each year. Most jurisdictions (cities, school district, fire districts, etc.) pay their share of election costs including staffing, voter pamphlets, and ballots. Historically, the state has not paid their share of these costs. As a county, we have joined other counties across the state in an attempt to change this. This year, our efforts were successful and the legislature adopted ESHB 2421, requiring the state to reimburse counties for their share of these election costs.
As I mentioned, we also advocate and meet with our federal representatives in Congress. Two of our key priorities this year are transportation projects and the expansion of rural broadband access.
We rely, in part, on federal funding to build and expand capacity within our transportation system. We have included funding for five state highways in our federal legislative agenda, with one of those being State Route 9 (Highway 9). As we know, Highway 9 is a major route of travel for North County residents and is also the only north-south highway running from one end of the county to the other (aside from I-5). We continue to advocate for roadway improvements to this important corridor.
We have been doing a lot of work on rural broadband expansion here locally in Snohomish County. We are partnering with the State Broadband Office and Public Works Board to put together a plan for rural broadband. We are also creating what is known as a Broadband Action Team (BAT) which brings government, business, and community partners together to identify needs. We have asked our federal partners for support in this effort to bring reliable high speed internet to more communities in Snohomish County.
I appreciate the partnership of our state and federal representatives and look forward to continuing to work together to prioritize the needs of the citizens of Snohomish County.
Nate Nehring is a member of the Snohomish County Council and represents District 1 which includes Arlington, Darrington, Granite Falls, Marysville, Stanwood, and unincorporated north county. He can be reached by email at Nate.Nehring@snoco.org or by phone at (425) 388-3494.